Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

A BRIEF DISCUSSION OF A FATWA PROHIBITING POKEMON

July 25, 2016

A BRIEF DISCUSSION OF A FATWA PROHIBITING POKEMON

The following discussion of old and new fatwas about Pokemon illustrates how even an innocent or innocuous children’s cartoon is made into a symbol of a binary division worldwide by islamist extremism.

09/04/2001 Al Qaradawi prohibits Pokemon http://www.aljazeera.net/news/cultureandart/2001/4/9/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%B5%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D9%81%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%89-%D8%A8%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%88%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%88%D9%86

11/07/2016 Pokemon craze sweeps across the Middle East http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2016/07/11/Pok-mon-craze-sweeps-across-Mideast-.html

14/07/2016 Al-Azhar condemns Pokemon ‘mania’ http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/egypt/al-azhar-condemns-pokemon-mania-1.1862458

20/07/2016 Pokemon Go ‘haram’ – The Council of Senior Scholars of Saudi Arabia has explicitly renewed its own 2001 fatwa prohibiting Pokemon, to include Pokemon Go http://www.arabnews.com/node/956681/saudi-arabia

Summary of 2001 Aljazeera.net article (translation by Usama Hasan):

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa prohibiting the Japanese Pokemon cartoon series and related films and games, “in order to protect the minds, beliefs and character of our children as well as their money: these people have perfected the art of looting it from them by consent, and gradually drawing their fathers and mothers into agreement also.”

Sheikh Qaradawi explained that his fatwa prohibiting Pokemon was issued after discussion broke out about Pokemon, its Sharia ruling and whether it is halal or haram. The Sheikh added, “I was asked about this by many fathers and mothers concerned about bringing their children up in an authentic Islamic way, in which their beliefs would be sound, their worship correct, their souls purified and their manners and character upright.”

Qaradawi emphasised that his fatwa was based upon the views of devout believers who were also experienced thinkers and who knew the issues of art, drama and TV series etc. He warned that Muslim jurists must not rush to pronounce judgment on such issues before knowing its reality, “for the judgment upon something is derived from its conception, and the jurists usually are not aware of such matters because they do not watch such series or games, especially since these are for children.”

Sheikh Qaradawi specified five reasons that led him to prohibit Pokemon:

  1. It is a danger to our creed (‘aqidah), since it is based on Darwinian thought, known as the theory of evolution, the development of species and types from lower to higher and more powerful creations.
  2. It is a danger to a child’s mentality and his good, intellectual upbringing, since it implants in his mind imaginary matters that have no foundation, supernatural things that are not consistent with God’s natural ways. This is because these insects or new creatures (Pokemons) have weird and wonderful qualities that have no basis in either reason or tradition.
  3. Pokemon is a danger to a child’s character and their good relationship with those around them, since the film has unearthed the theory of conflict and survival of the strongest, which is also a Darwinian theory. The film and TV series promote perpetual conflict, continuous fighting and a cycle of violence amongst its characters.
  4. The Pokemon game involves a type of gambling [in this case, spending money without equal counter-value], which is prohibited by the Sharia, since the upgrades are sold for tens, hundreds or even thousands of riyals, dirhams, pounds or dinars, especially the most powerful upgrades.
  5. Pokemon has characteristic symbols that have their own indications, e.g. the “six-pointed star” that is related to Zionism and Freemasonry, and which has become a symbol of the usurpatory state named “Israel.”

[6] Qaradawi called upon Muslims and Arabs to have “our own special products that express our beliefs, values, laws, customs, heritage and civilisation. Our innovative writers, academics, artists, technologists, the rich and the powerful should work together to do this. Thus, we should present films and cartoon series that carry our message and express our personality and religious, cultural and civilisational identity in simple, eloquent and attractive language.”

Brief comments on the above points by Usama Hasan:

  1. Darwinism: interestingly, a leading 19th-century Western scientist regarded this as a Muslim theory: “ … the Mohammedan theory of the evolution of man from lower forms, or his gradual development to his present condition in the long lapse of time.” (History of the Conflict between Religion and Science by John William Draper, 1811-1882, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, p. 188) Furthermore, Sheikh Qaradawi himself later moved away from this blanket condemnation of evolutionary theory: “Even research into the beginning of creation [is allowed in Islam], as long as one keeps in mind that we are looking into creation, meaning that there is a Creator … Even if we assume that species evolved from species, this is only by the will of the Creator, according to the laws of the Creator … If Darwin’s theory is proven, we can find Qur’anic verses that will fit with it …” Al-Jazeera TV (Al-Shari`ah wal Hayat, Arabic), 3 March 2009
  2. This discussion could be applied to many weak hadiths and also to fiction, including science fiction that is known to help inspire scientists, e.g. Arthur C Clarke’s famous predictions of the emergence of the internet and other developments. For science fiction in an Arab/Islamic context, see the Sindbad Sci-Fi project (http://sindbadscifi.com/)
  3. For sure, violence in films, TV shows and computer games is a major matter of concern for humanity worldwide. However, Sheikh Qaradawi’s concern in this regard is undermined by his other fatwas permitting the murder of Israeli civilians, since he regards Israel as a “militarised society” and therefore does not recognise any Israeli adults as civilians.

    Note also that the “survival of the fittest” is an aspect of our biological nature that was recognised by Muslim thinkers over a thousand years ago, including Al-Jahiz (776-869 CE) and his “Struggle for Existence” theory that anticipated a type of crude Lamarckism, one of the precursory theories to Darwinian evolution. (See Rebecca Stott, Darwin’s Ghosts, Bloomsbury, 2012, Chapter 3: Al-Jahiz; cf. also Jim al-Khalili, Pathfinders, p. 76)

  4. Certainly, wasting large sums of money on useless computer games is wrong. But relaxation is part of, and preparation for, worship of God in the Islamic tradition and people are entitled to have a small budget for such leisure. Furthermore, computer games can aid and develop some neural and reflex skills.
  5. Note that the Moroccan flag, pre-Israel, also carried a six-pointed star, also known as the Star of David (Arabic: najm Dawud) or the Seal of Solomon (khatam Sulayman). Six-pointed stars are also found engraved on the walls built by the Ottoman Muslim ruler Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and on the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad’s maternal aunt Umm Haram in Cyprus (http://keehuachee.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/part-2-hala-sultan-tekke-mosque-in.html). Since David and Solomon are revered “Prophet-Kings” in the Qur’an and the Islamic tradition, it is wrong to condemn their symbols. Indeed, Sufis such as Idries Shah and Martin Lings comment on the vertical-horizontal mystical symbolism of the six-pointed star.

    Furthermore, researchers into anti-semitism correctly note that “criticising Israel is not anti-semitism, but singling Israel out amongst the world’s states for criticism is anti-semitism.” (Similarly, I would argue that criticising Islam is not Islamophobia, but singling out Islam amongst the world’s religions, philosophies and traditions for criticism is Islamophobia.)

  6. The desire to preserve one’s own values is understandable, but nationalism taken to an extreme becomes fascism. The above fatwa was issued before 9/11 and smacks of divisive, us-vs.-them discourse, not to mention that it places Japanese Muslims in a very difficult situation, cf. A History of Islam in Japanhttps://unity1.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/islam-in-japan.pdf). It is also unhelpful for Western Muslims, Chinese Muslims, Indian Muslims and others. There is a certain irony about an Arab Sheikh using Western and Japanese technology to promote a xenophobic message, as though violence and other problematic issues do not exist within Arab and Muslim culture.

    The 99 (Islamic Superheroes) by Dr Naif al-Mutawa, produced 2006-2013, are arguably the kind of thing that Qaradawi was calling for. But here is a sobering reminder of some of the reaction to it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_99): Saudi clerics ruled the series blasphemous because the superheroes of its title are based on the 99 attributes ascribed to Allah in the Holy Quran. The Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said, “The 99 is a work of the devil that should be condemned and forbidden in respect to Allah’s names and attributes.” The original comic strip version, first released in 2006, had already run into opposition from Muslims not only in Saudi Arabia but also in neighboring Kuwait, where it was created and produced by media executive Nayef al-Mutawa. Andrea Peyser, columnist at the New York Post, wrote in October 2010: “Hide your face and grab the kids. Coming soon to a TV in your child’s bedroom is a posse of righteous, Sharia-compliant Muslim superheroes, including one who fights crime hidden head-to-toe by a burqa.” In 2014, The Kuwait Times reported that ISIL members had issued death threats and offered unspecified rewards for the assassination of Dr. Al-Mutawa, via Twitter. Al-Mutawa defended the work saying that he had received clearance from sharia scholars and never would have gone ahead with the project had he not.

    See also Burka Avenger (http://www.burkaavenger.com/), an award-winning homegrown Pakistani cartoon series (2013-present, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burka_Avenger) that is currently aired by Nickelodeon in Pakistan.

What we do need now is an inclusive discourse of universal, shared values, of replacing a “clash of civilisations” with a dialogue and co-operation of civilisations.

Usama Hasan, 15/07/16 (edited 25/07/16)

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Is settler violence terrorism?

August 22, 2012

Bismillah. An important development:

Brookings scholar Natan Sachs and Foreign Affairs managing editor Jonathan Tepperman held a media conference call today, August 22, on the arrest of seven Israeli settlers for reportedly attempting to lynch several Palestinian youths, and the State Department’s designation of settler violence as terrorism.

In the September/October issue of “Foreign Affairs,” Sachs and Daniel Byman, who is also at Brookings, write that confronting settler terrorism is a “clear moral and political imperative” for the Israeli government and that not doing so could imperil any hope of peace with the Palestinians.

“Whenever extremist settlers destroy Palestinian property or deface a mosque, they strengthen Palestinian radicals at the expense of moderates, undermining support for an agreement and delaying a possible accord. Meanwhile, each time Israeli leaders cave in to the demands of radical settlers, it vindicates their tactics and encourages ever more brazen behavior, deepening the government’s paralysis. In other words, Israeli violence in the West Bank both undermines the ability of Israel to implement a potential deal with the Palestinians and raises questions about whether it can enforce its own laws at home.”

Bin Ladin: From Hero to Villain

May 22, 2011

Bismillah.

BIN LADIN: FROM HERO TO VILLAIN?

Usama bin Muhammad bin ‘Awad bin Ladin (1957-2011) was originally a hero of the Afghan Jihad against the decade-long Soviet occupation, leading Arab and other fighters in numerous, successful operations. He was a colleague and deputy of the Palestinian Jihad leader Abdullah Azzam.  Once upon a time, the US was indebted to him for helping to inflict a major defeat on their superpower rival, as he was to them for their support of that Jihad.  But the plain truth is that his “Jihad” later evolved into international terrorism and consistently violated basic Islamic and human ethics.

Whether it’s the barbarity of the modern warfare waged by nation-states or international terrorism, it is all inhuman.  Let’s not forget that the twentieth century was the bloodiest in history, with governments all over the world guilty of collectively killing millions of people using increasingly-destructive weapons technology.  To illustrate the irony, when President Clinton reacted to Ibn Ladin’s assassination by referring to a long series of murderous attacks, he could have easily been talking about the ongoing US drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed hundreds of civilians.

Those interested in Ibn Ladin the man may wish to refer especially to two detailed interviews that he gave to ABC News and Al-Jazeera before 9/11.  In the ABC news interview, he condemned unprovoked terrorism but justified terrorism “against tyrants and oppressors in retaliation for their killing of innocent people.”  He also referred to the influential “younger” Saudi clerics, then in prison, as his mentors: the two leading ones, Salman al-‘Awdah and Safar al-Hawali, distanced themselves from him after 9/11 and criticised Al-Qaidah’s tactics.

To Al-Jazeera, Ibn Ladin spoke of his father’s civil engineering work and mentioned that his father was sometimes able to offer prayers in the three holiest mosques in a single day, i.e. in Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, since his father’s company, the Saudi Bin Ladin Group (not to be confused with an Al-Qaidah cell) had the maintenance and renovation contracts at all three sites.  He also said, in a clear recruitment appeal, that the optimum age for Jihad fighters was from adulthood to about 35, but appeared to dodge the question as to whether or not he was involved in the 1989 assassination of Abdullah Azzam, in which other suspects include the KGB, KHAD, Hekmatyar, Zawahiri and Mossad.

Since his death, the praise for Ibn Ladin from some Islamists around the world may be largely based on those early days, since tens of thousands took part in that anti-Communist Jihad. (I did so briefly, Dec 1990 – Jan 1991 during Cambridge University’s undergraduate winter holidays, along with two other senior colleagues from the UK.) Unfortunately, his supporters seem to have forgotten, or ignored, what came next.

The Afghan mujahideen were largely religious and/or nationalist, and bitterly-divided, as the vicious civil war amongst them illustrated, 1992-6 after the fall of Kabul, until the Taliban disarmed the warlords and took power, heralding merely the latest in a long line of brutally violent phases that the Afghan people have endured over the last 30-40 years.

The Arab fighters tended to be pan-Islamist, and many were not able to return to their countries of origin, mainly ruled by Western-backed dictators and tyrants. The Islamists’ anti-Westernism was compounded by western support for Israel in its numerous conflicts with the Arabs. Their influence has been huge.  (Many Muslims today, even Western ones, still speak of “Islam and the West” instead of “Islam in the West.”)

After the fall of Kabul, many Arab mujahideen fought in Bosnia and later Chechnya.  A widespread idea in mujahideen circles was that these wars in Europe confirmed the teaching attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), that “Jihad will continue until the Day of Resurrection” – Bosnia erupted soon after the fall of Kabul, and Chechnya followed closely.  Unfortunately, the Jihadists seemed unable to conceptualise non-violent, peaceful Jihads or struggles, e.g. those against colonial occupation, racism, apartheid, gender- or caste-discrimination, social injustice and poverty, that many peoples around the world have waged over the last century or so.

Once the Soviets, Serbs and Russians were no longer the leading targets in this “Jihad against all non-believers,” it was the turn of the western nations, led by the US.  Ibn Ladin issued a nonsensical Fatwa at the end of the 1990’s, as he launched Al-Qaidah or the International Islamic Front Against the Alliance of Crusaders and Zionists, or whatever he called it.  The fatwa said that all western taxpayers, and especially Americans, were legitimate targets due to western support for Israel, and thus sought to justify international terrorism.  The core part of the fatwa was read out on live, national UK television (BBC Newsnight) by a hate-preaching, extremist cleric who has since been banned from Britain.

Then came a string of atrocities against the US and people of many other nations: the embassy bombings in East Africa, and 9/11.  There is now clearly-overwhelming evidence that Al-Qaidah carried out the 9/11 attacks, although there remain a number of unanswered questions, including whether or not some people outside Al-Qaidah knew of the plots and could have done more to foil them.

The 9/11 attacks were, regrettably, celebrated across parts of the Muslim world and Latin America, exposing the level of anti-US sentiment.  Arab media reported a spike in baby boys being named “Usama” and there was a surge in Al-Qaidah’s popularity that dissipated over the years as the organisation murdered more and more innocent people, most of them Muslims, in many countries.  A notable exception to the initial celebration was in Iran, where there was no love for the fanatically anti-Shi’ite Al-Qaidah and Taliban.  Protestors in Tehran chanted, “Condolences to America,” instead of the usual chant of “Death to America” that has become regular since the 1979 revolution.

Many people wonder how someone likened to Hitler in some parts of the world could have been so popular elsewhere.  They forget that a certain US President is similarly hated in parts of the Muslim world:  the award-winning journalist Robert Fisk is a witness to that, having been beaten up and left for dead in December 2001 by an Afghan mob that mistook him for President Bush Jnr.  Similarly, others wonder how the Israelis once voted in General Ariel Sharon as their leader, despite an official Israeli inquiry finding him to be complicit in the 1982 massacre of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

The unfortunate western policy over the last few decades of supporting tyrants and dictators, whether military figures or absolute monarchs, as well as corrupt secular politicians, across the Arab and Muslim world, was partly to blame for Bin Ladin’s popularity there, as was the failure of those societies themselves to democratise. Of course the masses would choose a charismatic military hero, an eloquent warrior-poet, an ascetic from a billionaire family who renounced luxurious living and talked tough against Israel and America, backing his words with action, over utterly-corrupt kings, presidents and other dictators.  (Similarly, supporters of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Mullah Omar point to their simple and ascetic lifestyles.  The Muslim world seems to have too many leaders who are either ungodly and corrupt or are religious fanatics.)  God bless the brave youth who have inspired the Arab spring, offering the hope of an escape from the madness on all sides over the last few generations, and forced western powers to admit the failure of their previous strategies.  The leaders of the Arab spring have engaged successfully in a peaceful Jihad, for the Prophet, peace be upon him, is said to have taught that “the best Jihad is to speak a word of truth to a tyrant ruler.”

Celebrating the misfortune of others, especially an enemy, is an unfortunately-common, but negative, human trait.  In Arabic, it is known as shamatat al-a’da’.  In the Qur’an, Prophet Aaron (Harun) begs Prophet Moses (Musa), peace be upon them, not to expose him to the rejoicing of enemies by criticising him publicly and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would pray for God’s protection from being the object of this vice.

But unfortunately, some Muslims celebrated 9/11 as a military victory, just as British tabloids had celebrated the bombing of Libya in 1986, some Israelis the Gaza offensive of 2008-9, and some New Yorkers the assassination of Bin Ladin earlier this month.

Such celebrations may also be attributable to a sense of justice and/or revenge, of course.  One of those celebrating in Times Square had lost his wife on 9/11 and declared to the cameras that he knew for sure that his wife would watch from heaven whilst God would throw Bin Ladin’s soul into the depths of hell.  This was a totally understandable reaction from the still-grieving widower, whilst some Jews and Christians, amongst many believers, were surely asking that difficult question, “Can God forgive Hitler or Bin Ladin?”  Later today, the congregation of a church in Florida will be praying for Bin Ladin’s forgiveness.

Meanwhile, the latter’s former sister-in-law, Carmen bin Ladin, told CNN that Saudi society would be grieving the death of their brother, whom they regarded as a good Muslim, since he upheld the five pillars of Islam.  A problem in Muslim society is that too often, a “good Muslim” man or woman is limited to someone who observes the five pillars and dresses in a certain way, whereas the five pillars are supposed to be the springboard that launch people into oceans of loving spirituality, humanity and generosity rather than reducing them to hate-filled fanaticism.  A “good Muslim” is one who, inspired by the love and worship of God, helps to transform society for the better, standing up for the dispossessed and downtrodden against their oppressors.  Muslim societies need internal Jihads against racism, inequality and religious fanaticism, amongst other things.

One or two Muslim theologians, whose attitudes can only be described as mediaevalist, have quickly pronounced that Ibn Ladin is in heaven, since for them, “any Muslim, no matter what his deeds, is better than any non-Muslim.”  This is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the extremist Jews who glorified Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli settler who massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994 as they worshipped at dawn at the Hebron mosque and Cave of the Patriarchs.  For example, one extremist rabbi declared that “a million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”  Other extremists praised Goldstein for “living the Torah,” just as plenty of Muslim fanatics claim to be “following the Shariah.”  A wider irony is that Islamism and Zionism are mirror images of each other, united only in mutual hatred, since they both represent over-politicisations of their faiths.

The simple answer is that heaven and hell (or the Garden and the Fire, in Qur’anic language) manifest people’s nearness to God in this life: those in the Garden are near God and vice-versa, and those in the Fire are distant from God, and vice-versa.  Those insisting that Ibn Ladin is in the Garden should at least reflect on the possibility that many, if not all, of the innocent victims of terrorism are closer to God.

We face a stark choice today: in many ways, one that is as old as humanity itself.  We can either continue in cycles of violence and vengeance, or we can choose to break those cycles and embrace hope, forgiveness and peace.  Al-Qaidah are partly motivated by revenge for Muslim suffering over many years.  According to their stupid, clichéd and almost-meaningless slogan, “Americans will not taste security until the Palestinians do.” After 9/11, the US was partly motivated by revenge: “Who cares if we over-react!” as one TV pundit put it.  Ten years later, there are thousands of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, US and ISAF soldiers, plus Afghan, Pakistani and Iraqi civilians dead as part of the “war on terror.”  Furthermore, terrorists have left hundreds dead from Bali to London, Morocco to Jordan, Madrid to Mumbai.  How much more “revenge” do people want?

Zamakhshari, a classical commentator on the Qur’an, pointed out an oft-forgotten, basic aspect of Islam: the word itself means, as well as submission, “to enter into peace (after war)” – to put it another way, it means peace-making and renouncing war in favour of peace.  A true Muslim is thus a committed peace-maker and, as Prophet Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, is reported to have taught, “Blessed are the peace-makers.”

Fourteen centuries ago, Islam put an end to the vicious blood-feuds amongst the warring tribes of Arabia, cycles of violence that continued for generations.  Today, the South Africans, Northern Irish and the Rwandans, amongst others have chosen national reconciliation over continuing similar blood-feuds.  We need to encourage and help the Afghans, Pakistanis and Kashmiris to do the same.

President Obama’s efforts for a new chapter in US-Muslim relations must be welcomed, and we can all play a part in building bridges amongst people locked in conflict.  Crucially, the Israelis and Palestinians must be encouraged to end their mutual distrust and hatred.  The work of Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin, showcased in the film, Encounter Point, must especially be commended.  Jews and Muslims living together peacefully in democratic western countries can help set an example to their fellow-believers in the Holy Land, traumatised by the decades of conflict, many of whom are not even aware that they worship the same God, revere the same Prophets, and share many aspects of language and religious practice.  Efforts towards Palestinian unity and democratisation must be welcomed, although militant religious extremism, both Muslim and Jewish, must be marginalised and exposed for what it is: a perversion of faith and an immense obstacle to Middle-Eastern and world peace.  Muslim and Jewish leaders and religious authorities around the world must especially make it a priority to help their colleagues in Palestine and Israel make the right choices on the path to peace and justice for all.  Influential religious authorities in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria must be given the independence and freedom to criticise their governments constructively and thus reclaim their role as reflecting the spiritual will of the people, rather than being forced and intimidated into always toeing the official line.

One of Ibn Ladin’s gravest mistakes, regrettably, was to pervert the nobility of Jihad, including his own earlier sacrifices, and to recast it in purely violent forms with the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.  It is time for Muslims to reclaim the wider and deeper aspects of Jihad, for as Ibrahim bin Abi ‘Ablah, an ascetic Successor to the Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, observed on his way back from a military expedition, “We have returned from a lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad: the struggle against the vices of our own souls.”  Let us put the last ten years behind us, and move on.

© Usama Hasan

London, UK

22nd May, 2011